Octavio Paz Biography


(World Poets and Poetry)

Octavio Paz was born on March 31, 1914, in Mexico City. His mother, Josephina Lozano, was of Spanish extraction, while the family of his father, Octavio, was both Mexican and Indian. Paz was a precocious youngster, influenced by his politically active grandfather, a journalist and writer, whose twelve-thousand-volume library provided the necessary material for his intellectual development. Paz’s father was a lawyer who joined Emiliano Zapata during the 1910 Mexican Revolution and represented him in America. After secondary school, Paz studied from 1932 to 1937 at the National University of Mexico. In 1931, he founded Barandal, the first of his many journals. He also began to publish his poetry, and in 1933, Luna silvestre, his first collection, appeared; in the same year, he also founded his second journal, Cuadernos del valle de Mexico. In 1937, Paz attended a conference in Spain; after the conference, he decided to remain there for a year. His allegiance was, naturally, to the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War. In 1938, he passed through Paris, where he met Alejo Carpentier and Robert Desnos; Paz’s firsthand encounter with the Surrealists was particularly decisive, and their profound influence on his subsequent work cannot be overestimated.

In 1938, Paz returned to Mexico, where he worked with Spanish political refugees, wrote on political matters for El popular, and founded Taller. A fourth...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Octavio Paz (pahz) was born in Mexico City, Mexico, on March 31, 1914, the son of Octavio Paz, a mestizo, and Josephina Lozano, a woman of Spanish descent. His father, a lawyer and journalist who defended the peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and helped implement agrarian reform in Mexico after the revolution, made Paz aware of social justice issues. Paz grew up in his grandfather’s house in the small village of Mixoac. His grandfather, a popular novelist, introduced Paz to literature. Paz also lived and attended school in the United States for almost two years while his father was in political exile during the Mexican Revolution.

Paz began his literary career in his late teens, publishing his first book of poems, Luna silvestre, in 1933. He reacted against the fierce nationalism dominant in Mexican culture after the revolution and allied himself with Mexican poets interested in world literature. Nonetheless, he was very concerned about Mexico’s identity and future in the revolution’s aftermath. In 1937, Paz went to Yucatán to work in a rural school, leaving behind his university studies. He did not want to be a doctor or lawyer as his family desired. He wanted to be a poet whose poetry would help to change the world.

In 1937, Paz also went to Spain in support of the Spanish Republic. After trying unsuccessfully to enlist as a soldier to fight in Spain’s civil war, he defended the Spanish Republic with his poetry. He met many poets in Spain: Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo, Antonio Machado, and Stephen Spender, among others.

Paz returned to Mexico in 1938, determined to further the cause of the Spanish Republic through Taller (1938-1941), a literary magazine that he edited. With the Spanish Republic’s defeat, a disillusioned Paz realized that political action could not save the world from evil. He turned to poetry as a means for changing the world for the better, believing that poetry opposes evil by creating an alternative reality with language.

In 1943, Paz left Mexico to travel extensively for two years in the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship. He entered the Mexican diplomatic service in 1945 and was stationed in Paris from 1946 to 1951. While in Paris, he became friends with André Breton, the founder of Surrealism. Paz was...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Octavio Paz’s poetry champions the ecstasy that takes people beyond the tyranny of time, history, and alienation. The poet redeems his isolated individuality through a union with woman. Poetry allows the poet to experience oneness beyond time and language. Paz sees poetry as the antidote to the isolation and spiritual desolation of humankind in the modern world. The need to escape isolation and alienation is also a central theme of his acclaimed prose work, The Labyrinth of Solitude.

For Paz, writing poetry is an ethical act that contributes to the creation of a better world. Through his poetry, he seeks to liberate language, the reader, and the poet, so that all are able to experience a primal unified...

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